Hot Pinks for Full Sun in Containers

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Here’s a combination I created last summer for a client. I loved the way these plants thrived. Despite some troubling weather set-backs we had in 2021 at the start of the container season, they performed beautifully all summer into early fall. These plants tolerate full sun, drought, and wind fairly well.

Hot Pinks For Full Sun – Upon Planting Photo of Dipladenia, Calibrachoa, and Sedum stonecrop

The beautiful fluted hot pink flowers of the tropical plant in the center, called Dipladenia vine, was a perfect candidate. These plants continuously bloom and hold on to their blooms pretty well in windy conditions. It does not vine upwards, like Mandevilla vines do, but spread out more as it grows. The flowers are just gorgeous, and sometimes towards the end of the summer, they may fade a bit to a softer pink but overall they retain their form and color beautifully in containers.

Paired with Calibrachoa (left lower plant) – An annual in CT

I paired up the Dipladenia (thriller plant in the center) with a annual plant, Calibrachoa. The Calibrachoa has small Petunia like blooms on trailing stems which would eventually cascade over the rim of the pot (serving as a spiller) in this combination. It also is a sun lover and prefers well-drained soil kept evenly moist. The reason I selected the Calibrachoa, an annual plant here in Connecticut, is because of the coloring and form of the flowers. It has an outer pink to lavender color with a ring of a darker toned pink in the centers of its blooms. It was one color I had not see before for this annual, and thought of how well it would pair with the hot pink Dipladenia. It repeats the form of the larger hot pink flowers of the Dipladenia, and shares the same coloring in the pink hues.

Calibrachoa spilled over the edges

Also tucked in the corner is a Sedum (stonecrop) (see top photo on right) which is a perennial. It is called ‘Firecracker’ of the Sunsparkler series. Again, using another sun lover which tolerates periods of drought. The Sedum is hardy in Connecticut as a zone 4-9 plant, and blooms from late summer into early fall, however, it ended up getting hidden by the plants next to it by the end of the season. You couldn’t see it later in the season which is unfortunate, because I loved how the burgundy shiny succulent foliage gave a darker contrasting color to the hot and soft pinks in the combination. Sedum stonecrop plants makes nice groundcover in hot full sun landscapes, and again, I tend to use perennials in pots here and there as the anchors or foliage (filler) plants. They are good performers and easy care plants in either situation.

Full by mid-Summer into Fall

To the right of the planter with the hot pinks, I planted a large leaved perennial, a Lamb’s Ears perennial plant with a hardiness up to Zone 4. It is a hardy plant in Connecticut, typically used in sunny landscape beds, but I enjoy using perennials in my container gardens as well for adding the foliage power. I knew the soft, silvery, woolly leaves would look beautiful with the hot and soft pinks nearby. These plants are very easy care and again, love the hot sun, and can take drought. This Lamb’s Ears is called ‘Big Ears’ (Stachyz byzantina) because the leaves are huge, and the plant caught my attention right away. Bigger than the typical varieties of this plant, it was a perfect candidate for the tall planters. Another benefit of this plant is it is not preferred by deer, which is not an concern at this location but good to know for use in landscape beds. I also find, if planted in full sun, it doesn’t get any insect issues. If you try to plant it in shade or part sun, it won’t perform as well, and may even rot if in a damp location. And of course, it is soft and fluffy, and one of those plants you like to touch which makes it a fun candidate in outdoor areas on patios, decks, and wherever you may reach out to touch it. It grew at least two times bigger by the end of the summer season in its planter.

Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ (Perennial, Hot Full Sun, Zone 4 Plant)
Evolvulus pilosus ‘Blue Daze’ annual

In the smallest of the trio of tall planters, I planted a plant with soft blue flowers which are also sun lovers, or part sun. These bloom all season and tolerated the conditions at this site well (hot sun, windy, periods of drought). However, by the end of the year, while the plant grew huge, it didn’t have as many flowers as I expected, but the foliage stayed lovely. I had written about this plant before. I used it in wedding container gardens for a client. Blues is a tough color to find in blooms and thus, this is one of the blues available. It doesn’t drop its flowers nor require deadheading, which was a bonus. And no insect issues encountered. I only wished it was more prolific with blooms. I loved the way it looked with the other two planters, soft delicate foliage, and easy care. And as noted in my prior blog post about using these years ago, I learned the blooms close during cloudy conditions and or in the evenings, as you can see in this photo below.

Late Summer

But what you may also see is all the plants were extremely full, lush, and healthy all the way into early fall as shown in the photo above. You can even see a bloom that formed on the Lamb’s Ears on the far right. It was a shame to take all the plants out when I replanted for the fall season, but at the same time, it was a pleasure to know this combination performed well. The perennials may be salvaged at the end of the season by replanting them in your landscape beds. See more photos below. And, thank you for visiting my blog!

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer
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Located in Broad Brook section of E. Windsor, CT
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Upon planting – before Memorial Day
‘Big Ears’ Stachys byzantina – Perennial
Sedum stonecrop – perennial
Mid Summer Photo

Evolvulus glomeratus – One of the Blues in Nature with a Surprising Twist


Last November, I spoke to a group of Advance Master Gardeners at the Tolland County Extension Center about design compositions for container gardens and how to achieve growth success.

My session was broken up into 5 modules, which was certainly more than enough to cover two hours of talking, and it included information such as how to carry the elements of design learned with container gardening to small gardens, and methods to extend the growing season by utilizing sound gardening principles, as well as my own “5 Must-Do’s” for growth success in container gardens.

To begin my lecture, I wanted to share a story. The idea being, by sharing my story of a container garden installation I did for a wedding client over the summer, I could explain how many factors came into play to meet the bride’s requests.

Elements Circle - MG Class

My goal was to discuss the different elements required to meet a client’s needs in the container gardening world, such as plant knowledge, plant care, experience with various plants, and of course inspiration – for one requires inspiration most of all to succeed. Without inspiration, I told the audience, there is no passion behind your work and design compositions.

And, I also added the element of “experimentation.” This is certainly needed and gained over time. In the plant world, no matter which field you decide to work in, experimentation is an important element.

So, my story of assembling, caring for, and eventually delivering container gardens for my new bride client over the summer continued.

One of the first things the bride told me was her color theme when we discussed her desire to dress up her planned outdoor space with container gardens for their wedding celebration.

Color is of utmost importance for all weddings, but when she told me her three bloom color choices included cobalt blue, a little ping of concern went off in my head.

I was immediately concerned with this particular flower color because blue, in general, is uncommon in nature. Thus, I began to explain this to the bride, but also assured her we could incorporate some garden art and mesh ribbon to provide the punch of cobalt blue, as well as seek out cobalt blue pots. 


During my talk to the Advanced Master Gardeners, I put up this slide above.  The text within it is from the website called, mnn or mother nature network. As you can see, “there is no true blue pigment in plants.

Ways to Get the Blues

The bride was very understanding of the blue flower color dilemma when I explained to her plants in container gardens are unlike plants used for floral design. Floral design flowers are harvested, cut and stored in refrigerated facilities to be kept perfect up to the day of assembly.

Plants in container gardens are living, ever-changing, and would require care and attention up to her wedding celebration date which was the very end of August – just another factor to consider, for the weather in August in Connecticut could be hot and humid.

But as I said, the bride was very understanding and wished to proceed – and so did I for I certainly had the element of “inspiration” in my spirits and was extremely excited as well as honored to be hired to do the job of installing container gardens for her special upcoming event.

Having plant knowledge enabled me to easily decide on several blue toned flowering plants to use, as well as her other color choices, which were lime green and white.

Evolvulus glomeratus was just one of the blue blooming plants I decided to use – but this plant in particular was new to me – thus, it was an “experimentation.”

Evolvulus (4)

I spotted it at a local garden center. Its low-habit, pretty blue petals with white centers, and the fact it was noted to bloom from June to frost, made it a perfect candidate for my goals.

When asking a very young sales lady what she thought of this plant, she assured me it would bloom all throughout summer – which was of key, and one of the attributes I was looking for in this project’s plant candidates, because the wedding outdoor celebration was to be held on the very last day of the month in August.

So, although I knew very little about this plant, an annual in our Connecticut planting zones, I decided to take a few starter pots of them to get them growing into larger specimens over the summer months, and take a leap of faith that this new plant to me, Evolvulus glomeratus, would be a good performer for my purposes as a filler in the container gardens.

On top of not knowing much about the plant, it did not have a plant tag in its pots when I purchased them, but ironically, a friend planted one in her yard and I noticed it when visiting her – so she let me take a photo of her plant tags that day.

I always say, plant tags don’t come with warning labels, and there was something missing on this tag which affected my plans.

Evolvulus (5)Everything listed, such as “blooming til frost, no deadheading necessary, and easy care” fit the bill for my needs to meet the client’s expectations, but it had a habit which surprised me one day, as I browsed my stock to check for any insect problems or concerns.

Evolvulus (6)

Imagine my surprise when one afternoon I discovered the flowers were rolled up as tight as tiny cigars! Upon researching it via the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder website, a site I mentioned to the Advance Master Gardeners as a very useful resource for plant research, I saw it noted in black and white – Flowers usually close up at night and on cloudy days.

“Ack!” I thought. “Oh no, these are growing so well; their blue petals are so pretty and it’s low habit is perfect as a filler plant in the wedding container gardens, but now what?!”

I decided to email a hort friend, whom maintains gardens for several clients, asking if she ever used it, and her response was, “Yah, the tag said it would ‘blow my mind,’ but to be honest, it really didn’t. I didn’t like it as much as I expected.”

The moral of my story, that day as I spoke to the Advance Master Gardener group, is there are so many considerations required when putting container gardens together for client installations. I needed the plants to be long lasting, tough, have a bloom period at the end of the season, be resistant to insects or other plant related problems, and serve the correct role in my container gardens (thrilller, spiller, filler) for this special client. The “elements” spoken of earlier all came into play.

Evolvulus (7)

When I realized the flowers on this plant with blue blooms had the potential to close up on cloudy days or at night (and the wedding start time was late afternoon), I had to make a decision. And, my decision was to proceed with using them regardless. Risking the blooms rolling up would be something I would have to take. After all, there were many other reliable plants in the container gardens which met the bride’s color choices based on my knowledge of the plants. I knew the other plants used based on her other two flower color choices of lime green and white, along with other blue flower plants, would perform well. The show must go on – and Evolvulus glomeratus (noted as a non-vining morning glory like tender perennial, or referred to as “me-me’s” by the young lady at the nursery where I picked them up) ended up being the perfect filler.

Evolvulus (9)

After venting about it on Instagram, I proceed with my project of caring for all the plants until assembly and delivery time. After all the fretting, planning, caring, and obsessing, it was all worth it because I will never forget the reactions of the bride, groom, and mother of the groom, when I opened up my trailer filled with lush container gardens for their event. It was just like being on a reveal show. Their reactions being so positive, I felt I achieved my goals as best as I possibly could considering all the elements required to get the job done.

Evolvulus (8)

Cathy Testa
(860) 977-9473 (cell)
Broad Brook, CT

Evolvulus (10)

To learn more about Cathy Testa’s Container Garden Rental Services, see the menu bars above or click here.

Cathy T’s next speaking engagement is at the Farmington Garden Club on Monday, February 9th, at 11:30 am. Location: Farmington Main Library, 6 Montieth Drive, Farmington, CT. Topic: Incorporating Decorative Edibles in Mixed Container Gardens and Cathy T’s “5-Must Do’s for Growth Success”, along with Trending Talks.

Check back in to learn more about the other plants used in this design – They will be shared on this blog!

Thank you!

Daylight Savings Time Begins on the First Sunday of Lent


Newport, RI 2013

Newport, RI 2013

Don’t forget to set your clocks to “Spring Ahead” on Sunday, March 9th 2014, when daylight savings time begins.

Spring Ahead_0004

About the Photos

These photos were taken by me with my iPad at a wedding in Newport, RI last summer. The scenery was absolutely stunning.  It was not only a sunny day, but very windy especially with the ocean breezes.

As we witnessed the happy couple getting married, I questioned how the beautiful vases filled with flowers would stay in place, wondering if their florist secured the base of the vases somehow to hold them onto the pillars.

Photo by Cathy Testa

Photo by Cathy Testa

Sure enough, after the “I Do’s” and all the wedding guests went to the reception building, the vase of flowers toppled over right after taking photos.  Fortunately, I was there to tell the staff, and they picked them back up to bring inside.

About the Blue Flowers

Delphiniums are the blue flowers in the vase.

Seeing them at this wedding brought back memories – as this is one of my fav’s.

Take notice the florist used flowers with orange blooms in the vase, a color opposite to blue on the color wheel (a complementary).  And soft oranges were used.  The Delphinium’s blooms were a soft blue with white centers.  The backdrop of a bright blue sky really made this vase amazing at the wedding.

The flowers are extremely showy on tall spikes (or racemes), usually blue.

Delphiniums also come in other colors such as white, violet, pink or red, and yellow.  It is a tall erect plant with heights of 4 to 6 feet and will bloom early to midsummer in full sun.

  • Steven M. Still writes in “The Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants”:Delphinium is derived from the Greek word delphis, dolphin, and refers to the flower buds before they expand, which resemble dolphins.

At my wedding

Blue Delphiniums in My Wedding Bouquet

Blue Delphiniums in My Wedding Bouquet

I remembered looking over a book of potential cut flowers with a florist (a mom of a good friend) and seeing Delphinium blooms for the first time when I was picking out my own wedding bouquet years ago. I pointed to them to ask what they were. They were my first pick and I still love them today.

We included them in ceramic swans my mother had made for our head table.



When we got our first home, I planted a stand of Delphiniums in my first little perennial garden too.  As each tall stalk of blooms would pop open, it would remind me of my special day years ago, but my Delphiniums did not remain long in the garden.

They are the type of perennials which are a little more picky, preferring a slightly alkaline, organic soil with high fertilization, and they should be protected from windy locations in the garden as well due to their tall stalks.  Some references say they are not difficult to grow, but just need a little bit more attention than easier to grow perennials.

Have you grown them?  How successful has your’s been in your gardens?

To learn more about an absolutely beautiful perennial with showy blooms for the garden or weddings, see this document by Iowa State University:


Happy Thursday Everyone, Cathy T

Plant Details:

Native to Europe
Hardiness: Zones 3-7
Early to midsummer bloom period
Tall habit, full sun, moist well-drained, rich soils
Slightly alkaline pH
Slugs visit/like
Protect from wind in the garden – or in a vase! (Some varieties require staking).

Link above to Connecticut Yankee Delphiniums which grow to about 3 feet and branching habit.

A Nursery in the Country has a Big Draw

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Decor ideas at Meadow View Farms in Southwick, MA

Decor ideas at Meadow View Farms in Southwick, MA

As I mentioned earlier this year, I am making a commitment to visit nurseries this season.  I kind of miss walking a nursery and enjoying it just for me.  As a person in the bz, many times shopping is about the customer, which is also fun – but it was some ‘me’ time.

So today’s post is about Meadow View Farms in Southwick, Massachusettes.  My sister enjoys going to this place and took me there last year, and I remembered liking their herbs and veggies section so my goal was to pick up some of those.

When I arrived to the nursery, there were so many cars and people, I couldn’t believe my eyes – on a Wednesday!  It was a challenge finding an available parking space, especially with my big truck.  When I backed it into the spot, a woman applauded saying she was impressed, and I responded, “Yes, I had people and carts moving around me as I was trying to make it in there.”

As soon as I put the truck into park, a familiar face walked up – a friend by the name of Brian.  I met him at a bar – not what you think – he’s the bartender – and he showed me a book of his garden photos. He is an impressive gardener and has a beautiful greenhouse, so we just started talking plants as my husband sipped his cold brew that day we met.  Brian has a great personality and walked up with a big smile on his face.

Spanish bluebell

Spanish bluebell

Brian told me he went to several nurseries in search of a plant he saw in the gardens at Meadow View and later discovered he was calling it by the wrong plant name!  So that was a chuckle – especially because he knows plants.

“So show me which plant,” I said.

We walked over to a display area, and there it was –  beautiful blue flowers on sturdy little stems above strap like leaves.

“I don’t know off the top of my head but it is a bulb type plant,” I told Brian.  It looks familiar.

Brian thought it looked a bit like the perennial, Campanula.  “Yes, it does,” I responded.

Of course, of all the plants in the garden displays, this one was not labeled (nor was it for sale at this nursery – at least not on this shopping day).  But a staff person was quick to identify it for us.  However, before we found her, I grabbed my iPhone and said, I’ll just take a photo and post the question on Facebook: “Who knows the name of this plant?”

Garden displays

Garden displays

It took literally seconds to get the name, and comments from gardening friends growing this plant in their gardens.  By the way, after coming home, and looking it up, it is called Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish bluebell). It was formerly called Scilla campanulata (there you go Brian!), or Scilla hispanica.  This plant blooms from April to May, and goes dormant in summer.  And it grows well under trees, which is where it was located and repeated in the Meadow View display garden.

My cart filled

My cart filled

After a quick discussion with Brian on more plants, off he went – and so did I to the veggies section.  I already bought some herbs but I wanted more, and so I looked around, then I spotted a lemon tree.  Ironically, at the last two garden centers I visited, the “male” staff both told me they like lemon trees after we talked about plants like fig trees.  Guys like lemons, I thought.

So spotting one here, I decided I want one too, and to see a variegated form sitting there along side other healthy lemon tree plants, I thought – this is it.  On the cart you go, and the other was for a friend who found my idea of a lemon tree interesting – because lemons with summer cocktails is a good thing. So I texted her the price, and she said yes – get it for me.

The variegated one for me is actually a pink lemon everbearing variety.  These can be placed in the basement to go dormant from what I was told, or even in the garage over the winter.  It appears my theme this year for my container gardens is falling into the herb, fruit, and veggie category because I picked up a pineapple plant and fig tree recently too.  Hope all bear fruit.

Meadow View Farms in Southwick, MA has some nice small display gardens where you can view plants they have for sale.  They also put containers in various places and decor like wagon wheels as trellises for vine plants.  They have a little sitting cafe area, which I didn’t go into to, but I believe they offer water and coffee there.  And they do not have bathrooms, but outhouses which will do for any excited gardener shopping too long requiring a p-break.

They are stocked with great looking perennials, lots of big hanging baskets, annuals, and great veggies and herbs, with shrubs and vine plants too.  I didn’t notice any trees, and the facility is mostly an outdoor place.  There was no “garden decor” for sale, but lots and lots of plants with many enthusiastic shoppers.  A place where you can easily strike up a conversation with a fellow gardener – many would stop to ask about something in my cart, and then comments flourished from there.  My new lemon tree was a hot topic.

A stunning peony in the garden displays

A stunning peony in the garden displays

And it is very important to know – they do not take credit cards.  So go there with cash or a check with license in hand.  One would be very disappointed indeed if they made the travel there only to discover you can’t use a credit card – especially if you didn’t know while you waiting in the checkout line.  It was at least 12-15 people long at times, but moved very quickly because they have a line of registers with very competent and fast moving staff.

But one guy behind me was just a bit too excited.  As I waited in line, I spotted a bougainvillea plant and passion flower in hangers to my left.  I wondered how much they were, so I quickly ran over looking for the price tag.  Would you believe, he banged the back of my cart as the people in-front of me started moving forward to cash out.  Guess I forgive him for being so impatient cause he had some huge hanging baskets on his cart – I think he just couldn’t wait to get them home.

Cash out line - moves quickly

Cash out line – moves quickly

Meadow View may be out in the country, and a bit of a drive for some folks, but this place has a big draw.  My friend, Brian, told me it is “always like this” when I commented on how busy it was for a week day.  I filled my cart with other plants, checked out, and enjoyed the sandwich I was glad I packed in my truck for lunch.  And off I went anxiously to pot up my new lemon tree for my deck.

By the way, for you locals here thinking about going, I went through Suffield, CT and took Rt 168 for about 8 miles, past Lake Congamond.  It is a beautiful country road, so I enjoyed the ride very much – and thought about how I have to go to that lake for kayaking some day soon too.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473 cell

Trucks constantly deliver restocks from the greenhouses to the retail area

Trucks constantly deliver restocks from the greenhouses to the retail area